This is possibly the most unusual ‘kafunda’ in which I have lived since leaving the nest. I thought a couple of days in the rural hinterlands of Ruku’ every other year would prepare me for most things but I was not ready for this level of bananary-ness!
Here is a brief description: my front door, which also conveniently has a ventilation/bug pass gap at the bottom, is pretty much next to the classroom. In fact it couldn’t be any closer to the centre of learning if it tried. I can hear everything the teacher and students say throughout the day. The living part of my room is quite sizeable, ironically the biggest I’ve ever had since leaving home. There is a large sofa, a TV from before I was born and a water cooler containing water that smells like it is of the same era. The irony deepens with the large double bed they have given me since all visitors must leave by midnight as stated in my contract and reiterated several times by my contact teacher. There is an unappetizing kitchen which is just as well since I’ve never been fond of cooking and next to that is what one could loosely call a bathroom. It’s more a wet room with a hole in the middle serving as the drain. There is a western toilet fitted over a former ‘squatty potty’ that has been roughly paved over and a rusty washing machine spews its water all over the wet room floor. The shower head is placed above the plugs for both the electrical shower and the washing machine which I have been assured has not killed anyone yet despite my concerns. There is a small gap between the toilet and the wall, just below the water tank. This is the shower space. It’s definitely not large enough for the average-sized westerner. If I were about 2 inches taller it would be better to wait for the rains whenever I wanted to wash my hair rather than attempt it in this small space.
Although the concept work-life balance is vetoed by this style of living and the sense of imprisonment is heightened by the fact that I have to get the permission of the guardian of the gate to leave, there are actually several bonuses. Firstly, I no longer need an alarm to wake up. One of the school sound system’s speakers is on the other side of the wall beside my bed and Chinese schools LOVE to blast music at all times of the day. A lot of them are Christian hymns without the words. Whether they know this or not, I haven’t asked, I prefer to remain amused. Others are karaoke versions of 80’s love songs. The little darlings come rushing in for their morning exercises so all hope of a lie-in is lost by about 7.45. Before I started teaching and I was confined to sitting in the office every day doing nothing from 7.50am to 5pm, I decided to take a sick day to escape the boredom. Somehow the fact that I lived in the school slipped my mind and skiving proved to be completely pointless due to the noise and the constant knocking on my door by worried teachers and nosy students. Fail.
Another plus point is my chronic tardiness is no longer an issue. I am always on time for all of my 17 lessons. The school is really getting their money’s worth on that front.
When it comes to lunchtime though, that is when the shack comes into its own as I can quickly retire after lunch for a nap to make full use of the 2.5 hours we have off – who would have thought ‘break time’ would be so generous in China! So far I have watched more films in 2 weeks than I watched in the whole of last year. I have also read 3 books, which is great since I haven’t read a non course-related novel for at least 5 years.
The list of ‘advantages’ pretty much stops there. It may take a little while to get used to this one.